Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today, we invite you to explore the sacred throughout our world with the help of Pop Art artist and longtime nun Corita Kent; engage Catholic Social Teaching with Pope Francis’s Evangelii gaudium and its “no” to structural injustices; and embody these ideas with the help of Corita Kent’s art and the Immaculate Heart Community.
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
In Gibeon YHWH appeared to Solomon
in a dream at night saying,
“Ask what you would like me to do for you.”
“You have shown great kindness to your servant, David,
who was faithful, righteous, and obedient to you.
And you have generously maintained this constant love toward us,
and now you have appointed a successor
to sit on the judgment seat this very day.
Give me, your servant, a discerning heart,
so that I may distinguish good from evil
to govern your people with wisdom.”
It pleased YHWH that Solomon made such a request, and replied.
“I grant your request.
I will give you a heart so wise and understanding
that there has never been anyone like you up to now,
nor will there be after your time.”
Response: I love Your commands, O God.
I have said, O God, that my part / is to keep Your words.
The law of Your mouth is to me more precious / than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
R: I love Your commands, O God.
Let Your kindness comfort me / according to Your promise to Your faithful ones.
Let Your compassion come to me that I may live, / for Your law is my delight.
R: I love Your commands, O God.
For I love Your command / more than gold, however fine.
For in all Your precepts I go forward; / every false way I hate.
R: I love Your commands, O God.
Wonderful are Your decrees; / therefore I observe them.
The revelation of Your words sheds light, / giving understanding to the simple.
R: I love Your commands, O God.
We know that God makes all things work
together for the good of those who love God
and have been called according to God’s purpose.
They are the ones God chose long ago,
predestined to share the image of the Only Begotten,
in order that Christ might be the firstborn of many.
Those whom God predestined have likewise been called;
those whom God called have also been justified;
and those whom God justified have been glorified.
Jesus addressed the disciples,
“The kindom of God is like a buried treasure found in a field.
The ones who discovered it hid it again,
and, rejoicing at the discovery, went and sold all their possessions
and bought that field.
“Or again, the kindom of heaven is like a merchant’s search for fine pearls.
When one pearl of great value was found,
the merchant went back and sold everything else and bought it.
“Or again, the kindom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea,
which collected all kinds of fish.
When it was full, the fishers hauled it ashore.
Then, sitting down, they collected the good ones in a basket
and threw away those that were of no use.
This is how it will be at the end of time.
The angels will come and separate the wicked from the just
and throw the wicked into the blazing furnace,
where there will be weeping and the gnashing of teeth.
“Have you understood all this?”
“Yes,” they answered.
To this Jesus replied,
“Every religious scholar who has become a student of the kindom of heaven
is like the head of a household
who can bring from the storeroom both the new and the old.”
The Inclusive Lectionary © 2022 FutureChurch. All rights reserved.
The inclusive language psalms:
Leach, Maureen, O.S.F. and Schreck, Nancy, O.S.F., Psalms Anew: A Non-sexist Edition
(Dubuque, IA: The Sisters of St. Francis, 1984).
Used with permission.
To make love, to make believe, to make hope…
The Pop Art artist and longtime Roman Catholic nun Corita Kent helps us to cultivate “an understanding heart,” as Solomon asks for in today’s first reading. Her artwork plays with everyday words and images, probing them for spiritual meaning and reconfiguring them into joyful affirmations of life. In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us, as he often does, that “the kingdom of heaven is like…,” using simple and earthy metaphors to convey his message. Corita, whose name can be translated from Latin as “little heart,” also gives us ways to become more aware, more understanding, of how the sacred sustains us through the people, places, and things all around us.
Corita had been making art professionally for about a decade when she encountered Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans in Los Angeles. She was transformed by the experience, and she remarked that “coming home, you saw everything like Andy Warhol.” Shortly thereafter, she began to make Pop Art silkscreens, appropriating branding from Wonderbread, using its bright colors and optimistic slogans to help think more deeply about Catholicism’s own special bread, the Eucharist. In another serigraph, Corita splashed pastel colors across her screen along with the signature script “G” logo of General Mills. Not content merely to remind us of our love for cereal, she added the words “The Big G Stands for Goodness,” calling our attention to the ways that the simple good things we see daily can inspire us toward greater awareness of the divine presence which is everywhere. In her collection Footnotes and Headlines: A Play-Pray Book, she once wrote that “there are three things that keep life from being so daily: To make love, to make believe, to make hope with the ordinary everyday people and stuff around us.” Corita’s art can teach us how to nurture this talent in our own life.
Solomon asks God for a heart to judge and to distinguish right from wrong. While much of Corita’s art is joyful, she was deeply concerned, too, about the important issues of her day. Throughout the 1960s, she stayed in touch with the causes which defined the decade. Many of her prints are, as one of them proclaims, “uncommon advertising for the common good.” She made work dealing with subjects like hunger, the war in Vietnam, and the Watts uprising. She commemorated figures like Cesar Chavez, and her work mourned the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. One print showcases the actions of her good friend Daniel Berrigan as part of the Catonsville Nine. Her own involvement was very different, however. In an interview with Bernard Glam she once said “I think I really had no guts at all, until it finally occurred to me that I really had my own place” in the work of justice. “I couldn’t march and be in the public that way,” she continued, but she hoped that her art could be “a way to help awaken people to something they may not be aware of, rather than enclosing it in a book or making a speech about it.” We cannot all go to jail so often as Daniel Berrigan did, but we can all find our own ways to “get with the action,” as Corita liked to say.
Corita Kent, for many years a Sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, was born Frances Kent and known variously as Sr. Mary Corita, Sr. Corita, and Ms. Corita Kent over the course of her life. She was born in Iowa in 1918, raised in Los Angeles, left religious life and moved to Boston in 1968, and lived there until her death in 1986. Upon her departure from the convent, one writer called her “the best known religious in the United States and the walking symbol of the ‘new nun.’” Her artwork can be found in the collections of dozens of museums around the world, or alongside Interstate 93 in Boston, where her “rainbow swash” adorns a commercial gas tank and stands as the largest copyrighted work of art in the world. You can find more information about her at corita.org.
Commentary by Tim Dulle
Engage Catholic Social Teaching
In his 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium (“The joy of the Gospel”), Pope Francis lifts up joy as an important religious value and calls Christians to a life “marked by this joy.” Francis tells us that “the great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience.” He offers a stern “no” to a number of structural injustices including economic exclusion, the idolization of money, an absolutization of the financial system, and rampant inequality. On a more personal level, he advises those working for the Gospel to avoid selfishness, sterile pessimism, spiritual sloth, and warring among ourselves.
Francis proposes as the antidote to all these things, which together he terms “the crisis of communal commitment,” the joyful proclamation of God’s love to the world. He writes of “the joy we experience daily, amid the little things of life, as a response to the loving invitation of God.” And while he offers advice on spirituality, liturgy, and prayer, he is adamant that “an authentic faith…always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave the earth somehow better than we found it.” It is only by this sort of love, God’s love and the love shared in community, that “we are liberated from our narrowness and self-absorption.”
The exhortation’s major theme is evangelization. He calls the church to be “a church which goes forth,” looking always beyond itself to bring the good news to the world. This evangelizing mission should consider not only non-Christians, but also those who have been baptized but no longer find meaning in the church, as well as those who have faith but need support. Rather than demand that others follow more rules or practice strict forms of worship, Francis says that Christians “should appear as people who wish to share their joy, who point to a horizon of beauty and who invite others to a delicious banquet.” Apologetics or debate have little place here as he tells us that “it is not by proselytizing that the church grows, but by attraction.” The joy we seek out every day, the joy we find from life in community, the joy we share with others; these are the most authentic marks of our faith.
Evangelii gaudium was one of the first significant new documents of Francis’s papacy. Since its promulgation in November of 2013, Francis has lived out its message. In his writing and speaking, in his international travels, and in his pastoral work, Francis has modeled this spirit of joy. His consistent advocacy on behalf of the poor and marginalized, his criticism of our “throwaway culture,” and his summons to care for creation are all, in the final estimate, authentic outpourings of the joy Francis has found in his relationships human and divine.
A Contemplative Exercise
Corita once wrote that “Today we find all the superlatives and the infinite fulfillment [humanity] hungers for portrayed not only in fairy stories or poems but also in billboards and magazine ads and tv commercials.” She continues that “Nobody should believe ads and billboards. They are contemporary fairy tales and the carriers, as fairy tales have always been, of [humanity’s] loves and hopes and beliefs.” Many advertisements are, for her, “almost like contemporary translations of the psalms for us to be singing on our way.” “Thank God for cityscapes,” she declares, “They have signs. Thank God for magazines—they have ads.”
We invite you to think back to advertisements, signs, and other media which have grabbed your attention recently, and as you move forward through your day. What hopeful messages do you find there? What infinite desires are channeled through these media, and what does this help you understand about humanity’s relationship to God? What longings are found there? What of your own deepest wants are echoed? And how can you help others realize these hopes for themselves? As Corita reminds us, we should see these ads “as a kind of communication from [our] fellow [human beings].” If we can remember that very little of what we read in ads is literally true, we can live “with a great kind of freedom, freed from pressures to want or buy.” We can thereby “take the whole business on a fairy story or allegorical level and enjoy it immensely.”
Corita Kent believed in the power of joy throughout her life, even when it was not always easy. She was known as one of the most dutiful members of her religious community, the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, always making time for her fellow sisters and giving advice about difficulties in community life or in difficult professional assignments. However, beginning in the mid-1950s, her community was often a target of scrutiny by the Archbishop of Los Angeles, Cardinal James Francis McIntyre. He criticized the order and made Corita’s artwork a special target. Nonetheless, she continued to share her joy with others by channeling it into her work, helping others to develop understanding hearts through her teaching, art, and activism.
By 1968, as she said, after years of conflict with the archdiocese and a demanding schedule of teaching and speaking engagements “it had all become too much.” Corita decided to leave her religious order and the Catholic Church. She moved to Boston and continued her career as an artist until her death in 1986. Even beyond the formal boundaries of the church, Corita continued to “remain open to mystery,” and worked to develop real and authentic connections with others through her art. Much like Jesus’s invitation to look for the kingdom in seemingly unlikely places, Corita placed trust in her own discernment and worked to continue her mission in a new form of life, wherever it took her.
The Immaculate Heart Community bills itself as “an ecumenical Christian community without walls, committed to the foundations of our work: faith, hope, action.” They work “toward peace and justice for all people, with a focus on the arts, women, immigration and environment.” Founded in 1970, the community came about when hundreds of Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary requested formal dispensation from their religious vows. After years of experimentation with the forms and structures of their communal religious life following the Vatican II call for the reform of religious life, the sisters found themselves unable to agree with their archbishop on what changes were acceptable, and many chose to follow their conscience and leave formal religious life. Today, the Immaculate Heart Community carries on their work, in ministries such as Casa Esperanza and the Corita Art Center, the community puts their faith into action and carries on the spirit of former IHM sisters such as Anita Caspary, Helen Kelley, and Corita Kent.